It was Caelion who decided to participate in the competition.
However, Apollonia laughed at his reason.
“You’re saying… you want to win the competition and gain power to protect your father”
“…I have no other choice.
If I don’t participate, they’re going to kill me regardless.”
Apollonia raised one eyebrow.
“It sounds like you think you can win if you put your mind to it.”
“…I’ve competed against last year’s champion,” he said, slightly lowering his eyes.
His long, thick eyelashes cast a shadow over his cheeks, trying to be as humble as possible while conveying the facts.
The last winner was the second son of the Levine family, who was younger but could exceed other contestants in terms of height or strength.
“Hunting and confrontation are different, but still, I didn’t lose against him.”
He seemed humble, but he showed a lot of confidence.
He was telling the truth.
“So you acquired Apollo’s power as well,” Apollonia uttered bitterly.
Now she understood why the Grand Duke wanted to hide the boy.
“…I suppose so.
I’ve never lost to an adult since I was ten years old.”
His struggle when he was dragged out by Uriel must have been a lie, then.
“You must hide that no matter what.”
“But the competition…”
“Participate in the competition as scheduled, but don’t think about winning.
If you stand out, my father will find a way to kill you.
I assure you that killing you will outweigh any consequences.”
At her sharp tone, Caelion opened his eyes wide and nodded slowly.
“My father will try to test your ability in some way.
I want you to show him that your hunting skills are terrible.”
Apollonia knew well that simply hiding and avoiding would not shake off the emperor and Petra’s suspicion.
“You are still considered too young to land an attack on adults.
You said you’d win no matter what, right So find strong monsters and get yourself hurt enough for you to withdraw from the competition.”
The quick-witted Caelion quickly understood what she meant, but he looked very anxious.
“…I get your point, but I’m not confident enough to do that.”
“What do you mean”
“It’s rather easy to show my utmost strength and win, but if I were to hide it, it won’t be easy for me to defend my life.”
If he wasn’t forced to hide his power, he could freely roam around the hunting ground.
However, if he had to conceal his power, it also meant he could be seriously injured because he was overly cautious of watchful eyes.
It was reasonable.
People often got injured or killed in the hunting ground.
Furthermore, he was not trained for this.
Apollonia wanted to keep him in check, but she also became increasingly fond of this boy.
A child with an objective view of himself, oozing confidence.
“Don’t you have an escort to watch your back”
“There are knights from the grand duchy… but they are honest people.
Each of them will participate in the hunt with their honor on stake, so they won’t agree to work for me.”
Apollonia bit her lip.
The Evinharts were known for their integrity and uprightness, but those qualities were inconvenient at times like this.
Bribing them would be useless, after all.
“Take one more knight with you.”
“Take one more knight…”
She pointed at Uriel.
With his sword still on Caelion’s neck, Uriel frowned slightly.
“There’s no more stellar escort than him in the empire.”
Uriel, a man with an unparalleled sharpness in contrast to his angelic silver hair, and Caelion, a child with a gentle attitude in contrast to the intense combination of his red eyes and black hair, faced each other.
“I don’t mean to doubt you, sister.
He’s indeed tall, but he doesn’t look as strong as I expected him to be.
At least I need someone with enough experience to protect me…”
“I don’t think someone who just got dragged by me should say that.”
“If you didn’t notice that I purposely let myself get dragged here, then don’t blame me if I’d doubt you even more.”
The two seemed to dislike each other, which surely was not a good sign if they’re about to work together.
“Stop it.” Apollonia grabbed Uriel’s arm and warned Caelion.
At her words, the black-haired boy looked upset,.but she ignored Caelion and turned to Uriel.
This child will die without you.”
Caelion was pouting as if he wanted to refute her, but Apollonia was serious right now.
In front of hundreds of guests, one might think the Emperor would be more cautious, but he and Petra were aggressive people from the start.
If they deemed it was necessary, they would take action right on the spot without mercy, or they would eliminate the boy before the Grand Duke left the capital at the very least.
“I might need him one day, so you have to save him,” she said, looking straight at Uriel’s deep blue eyes.
“It’s an order.
Help him stay alive until the end of the hunting competition.”
It was the same as asking him to risk his life for a random child, but Uriel didn’t really mind.
He also did not mention that it was his first time joining a hunting competition or that it might be dangerous for him as well.
There were no words nor reasons needed.
Anything for Apollonia.